Defined: Emo Horror (“emotive horror”) focuses on the horrible in unhappy emotional qualities like sadness, grief, regret, breaking, neglect, misfortune, etc. Plots resolve not so much with triumph (or its failure) over monsters or horrible people, but with overcoming (or not) emotional horror itself.
Origin: In music, Emo is short for emotional hardcore, a style of hardcore punk rock “characterized by melodic musicianship and expressive, often confessional lyrics” [wikipedia]. A breakdown of emo styles of music is [here]. The idea for emo horror is that of a story model based on similar essential features in horror literature, evoked by pushing the superficial elements of monsters and madmen to the background and bringing the horrific elements of anguish to the fore. This allows the genre to become, perhaps, an expressive vehicle for personal truth telling and exploration of painful emotions. Think of emotive horror as horror expressionism and therefore particularly suitable to a kind of literary performance.
Not the Same: Emo Horror differs intrinsically from psychological horror, in that the latter attempts to horrify by disturbing the reader or audience with the deviant psychology or emotional instability of characters, while emo horror makes grappling with universally experienced emotional agonies the point.
Protologisms: Emo Horror is a protologism. A protologism is a neologism that hasn’t caught on yet. For short, I am saying EmoHor – because I like the double entendre.
FYI: I don’t want to get locked into one particular genre, let alone sub-genre, but I felt it was necessary to identify the consistent elements in this type of writing and give it a name.
Asher’s 334th Maxim: There’s a method to my sadness.
Update: Once the term “emo horror” started appearing in alternative dictionaries, Google popped an earlier use of that phrase back into its index. It wasn’t a reference to a genre but, I was delighted to find, a description used in a review of one of Stephen King’s short story collections! Better company we could not be in. In fact, this excerpt from the review, by Sci-Fi Gene, is an excellent summation of Emo Horror as a sub-genre: “While they are undeniably still horror stories, they strike more of a melancholy note than King’s earlier writings: more emo than gothic horror… Many of the stories focus on horrors that have already happened and deal with the grief and denial that follows.”